The Omicron variant of the coronavirus less often leads to severe illness and hospitalisation than previous variants, a British study carried out by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows.
According to the study, those with an Omicron infection are 45% less likely to end up in intensive care than someone who was infected with the Delta variant. The chance of a "regular" hospital admission (ie. not being admitted to intensive care) could even be 70% lower.
"Our latest analysis shows an encouraging early signal that people who contract the Omicron variant may be at a relatively lower risk of hospitalisation than those who contract other variants," Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UKHSA, told The Guardian. "However, it should be noted both that this is early data and more research is required to confirm these findings."
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The results also show that Omicron more often causes reinfection than previous variants did. It is also assumed that the vaccines do not work as well against the new variant and protection against it declines after only ten weeks.
The UKHSA notes that the Omicron variant is currently circulating mainly among young people, who are less likely to be hospitalised, no matter which variant they contract.
If the vulnerable population group is also affected more, there is a chance that the hospital figures will still rise.
The early findings were described as "promising" and "encouraging" and are consistent with analysis published last Wednesday by Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh.